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Zatoichi Kitano Rotterdam opener

ZATOICHI opening film IFFR 2004
Special sidebar ‘Once We Were Birds: Romani Cinema’
Isaac Julien (UK) selected as ‘Artist in Focus’

The major director, star and entertainer Takeshi Kitano will attend the opening of the 33rd International Film Festival Rotterdam to present his latest feature ZATOICHI. Kitano himself plays the title role as the legendary, blind swordsman with the young star of Japanese cinema Asano Tadanobu as his opponent. “Full of vitality, wit and marvellously choreographed sword-play ZATOICHI will start the festival in a wonderful mood” says director Simon Field. “We have chosen this film not only to represent the festival’s long-standing enthusiasm for Japanese cinema but also our admiration for the work of Takeshi Kitano in particular. It’s a great honour for me personally in my last year as a director of the festival and for the festival itself that Mr. Kitano has broken into a very hectic schedule to be present in Rotterdam.”

’Once We Were Birds: Romani Cinema’ is the third substantial thematic sidebar within the festival (alongside previously announced ’Homefront USA’ and ’Power : Play’). It will be devoted to films by and about the Roma and thus continues a tradition in the festival of celebrating the voices and the riches of unsung cultures. A large selection of features, shorts and documentaries will include films by Romani directors featuring Romani actors and the majority of them in the Romani language. Very rarely seen classics from a variety of European countries, and rare US features about the Roma will play alongside premiering documentaries like Aleksander Manic’s SHUTKA (Yugoslavia/Czech Republic) and Zelimir Zilnik’s KENEDI COMES BACK HOME (Yugoslavia) to present a diverse celebration of Romani culture and an exploration of how it has been represented by the Roma themselves and by others.

The British artist and film-maker Isaac Julien is to be the second Artist in Focus presented by the IFFR (last year’s selection in this significant initiative was the French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster). It is a choice that marks the festival’s commitment to exploring and highlighting the growing cross-over between cinema and the visual arts and the strength of its partnership with the other arts institutions in Rotterdam. Julien began his career as a film-maker but for several years has devoted himself largely to installation work and is now recognised as a major artist on the international scene particularly with his recent pieces PARADISE OMEROS and BALTIMORE, which skilfully combine elements of cinema and visual art, the contrasts of popular and high art and aspects of black culture. Both these pieces and others will be presented in Rotterdam where the Focus will consist of installations in both the Rotterdam Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and at the Rotterdam art centre TENT. and three programmes of his single screen films.

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